50 million summer outfits will be bought in 2019 and only worn once.
That means 50 million outfits destined for landfill.
50 million outfits, most of which are likely to come from fast fashion brands and are therefore made by mistreated garment factory workers.
50 million outfits only adding to the demand for an industry that is the second most polluting on earth.
It’s a mentality that a lot of us are used to, right? As the weather gets warmer, most of us see it as a reason (or an excuse) to buy some new clothes. We tuck away the tights, the boots and the jumpers and head out to clad ourselves in items that are more in-line with the warmth.
And, in and of itself, having outfits for the different seasons is no bad thing. I mean, I’m not going to brandish you as an “unsustainable shopper” because you don’t wear your faux fur coat to the beach.
However, as with all things fast fashion, we tend to take this mentality to the extreme. The huge spike in clothing sales as the weather gets warmer is symptomatic of our overconsumption of clothing as a whole.
It’s a problem that needs to be talked about.
Seasonal fashion and why it’s a problem
Seasonal trends position clothes as a throwaway commodity.
They make items a temporary addition to our lives, which is only heightened by just how cheap clothes have become. This leaves a large proportion of our wardrobes destined to be worn a few times and then chucked away, since they hold no real value to us.
It’s no surprise then that £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each.
Related post: What’s so bad about “fast fashion”?
I know that I’ve definitely fallen into the “new season, new wardrobe” mentality myself. And the “holy crap, I’m going on holiday! I better buy 56 bikinis and 12 pairs of flip flops” mentality, too. In fact, I used to be the kind of gal that got a whiff of warm weather and got myself straight down to the nearest Primark.
Every. Single. Year.
It wasn’t like I was buying items that would last a lifetime, either. Instead, I was suckered in by the trendiest of trend pieces, which would inevitably get pushed to the back of my wardrobe as soon as I saw a new style filling up my Instagram feed.
How times change.
Wanting new clothes is inevitable. So is falling out of love with pieces that you own. Afterall, our tastes change from year to year, and something we were besotted with might not be so enticing 365 days on. This year, as with every year, I’ve definitely felt the itch to get my butt down to the high street and have a bit of a splurge on summer clothes. I felt as though a lot of my wardrobe didn’t reflect my style any more and needed an update.
So, over the last few months, I’ve been determined to update my wardrobe slightly, without funnelling any of my money into fast fashion and without over-consuming just because the sun’s come out.
I’ve got my hands on a few beautiful pieces that I plan on wearing to death, and have re-visited pieces that I already had, too. All without compromising my ethical values.
How can we update our wardrobes this summer, without funding fast fashion?
Re-imagining old clothes
One of the key tenents to sustainable fashion is making your clothes last. Not only does that mean attempting not to be overly trend-focused so that your items extend beyond seasons, but it also means adapting what you already own so that it suits your current needs.
Got a pair of jeans that you don’t wear often but that you imagine could make a killer pair of shorts? Get those scissors out, pal.
Want to change the length of a summer dress so that it’s more trendy this season? Hemming web is your new bestie.
One recent win I’ve had updating my wardrobe without having to buy something new is with a slightly worse-for-wear yellow smock dress. I got it last year and then wore it a ridiculous amount all summer. By the end of August it was pretty faded, so I decided to dye it navy blue to wear again this year.
Not to toot my sustainable trumpet, but it looks FIT again now.
As I said, I’ve really felt the pressure to completely update my wardrobe recently. Whilst I’ve managed to avoid going overboard and buying a tonne of stuff, I have invested in a few things that are new to me.
By that I mean: Depop has become my best pal.
If you want to dabble in trends or have your eye on something specific, buying secondhand through places like Depop, eBay or PoshMark can be a brilliant option. Unlike charity shopping, they allow you to filter by size and brand, as well as obviously having a search function.
It’s the convenience of online shopping, without giving your money to companies that are killing the planet and harming people.
I’ve found a few total bargains so far during my wardrobe update, including the slip dress I’m wearing in these pictures. It’s already become a staple that is fairing me well in this heat wave.
Investing in ethical items that will last
“Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.” (Vivienne Westwood, 2014) are words worth living by.
Whilst I love buying slightly more “on trend” pieces secondhand, I try to get all of my wardrobe essentials from slow fashion companies. That way, I know they’re going to last me as long as I need them to and that I’m supporting brands that deserve my coin.
Having a wardrobe that is made up of a lot of basic pieces that will work together is a real win as far as sustainability is concerned.
One slow fashion piece that I can guarantee I’ll be wearing this summer and far, far beyond are these BEAUT sandals [Gifted] from Will’s Vegan Shoes. They’re a company that champions sustainability and ethical fashion: They are completely vegan (no surprise there), carbon-neutral and most of their products are made from a leather alternative created from plants.
Related post: What is “Carbon Neutral”?
I decided to go for this classic footbed style since I can see them lasting for many summers to come and matching with literally any daytime outfit I put together.
After all, the more you wear an item, the more sustainable it becomes.
I totally get the temptation to have a wardrobe overhaul as the seasons turn: It’s exactly what fast fashion has taught us that we need to do. However, by being more conscious of what you buy and where from, as well as being aware of the items that you already have in your wardrobe, you can help to reduce the huge amount of pressure that the fashion industry places on our planet.
We can’t save the world by not buying a cheap t-shirt. But we can all be responsible for our own levels of consumption.